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NK premier inspects economic sites, indicating his exclusion from recent reshuffle

North Korean Premier Kim Tok-hun (L) speaks to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the third plenary meeting of the eighth Central Committee of North Korea's Workers' Party on the third day of its schedule in Pyongyang on June 17, 2021, in this photo captured from the North's Korean Central Television the next day. (Korea Central News Agency)
North Korean Premier Kim Tok-hun (L) speaks to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the third plenary meeting of the eighth Central Committee of North Korea's Workers' Party on the third day of its schedule in Pyongyang on June 17, 2021, in this photo captured from the North's Korean Central Television the next day. (Korea Central News Agency)
North Korea's Premier Kim Tok-hun made field inspection visits to economic sites, state media said Tuesday, confirming that he has been spared from a recent reshuffle carried out to fire officials responsible for causing a "crucial case" in the country's fight against the coronavirus.

Kim, also a member of the Presidium of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party, "inspected several units concerning the national economy" and saw preparations to prevent flooding ahead of the summer monsoon season, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

"He urged the agricultural sector and the meteorological observation sector to cooperate in working out foresightedly a plan for preventing the natural damage, and stressed the need for other sectors to fully support it," the KCNA said.  

The report came after leader Kim Jong-un held an extended politburo meeting last week and berated officials handling anti-epidemic measures for neglecting duties and causing "a crucial case of creating a great crisis in ensuring the security of the state and safety of the people."

At the meeting, key party members were recalled and their replacements were elected, including a member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau, but state media did not provide details, raising speculation over which members were dismissed.

The politburo presidium, consisting of five members, including leader Kim, is one of the North's most powerful party organizations that determines key policies.

Tuesday's report is raising the possibility that Ri Pyong-chol, vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party, has been dismissed.

Footage disclosed by state TV showed Ri was seen not participating in a vote with his head down during last week's politburo meeting, spawning speculation that he might have been dismissed.

A unification ministry official said that the possibility is high of Ri's dismissal, given state media reports, though there is still insufficient evidence.

The official added that personnel changes might be able to be confirmed in photos expected to be disclosed of leader Kim's trip to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun on the occasion of the death anniversary of his grandfather and state founder, Kim Il-sung, which falls on Thursday.

Jo Yong-won, another presidium member and close aide to leader Kim, is presumed to have kept his seat as he was seen joining the politburo meeting and criticizing other officials. (Yonhap)

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